Friday, August 31, 2007

End of summer

It's been a busy week here at Chez Gerlach-Mueller. Lots of scrambling about, what with school being back in session, learning how to get up earlier and, more importantly, go to bed earlier. Packing lunches, laying clothes out the night before (well, this hasn't been so tough, what with all the new, back-to-school clothes), staying on task, getting the homework done.

Yet we've made it through the week.

I finished most of my article - a review that I do not feel totally qualified to do - but am still waiting on confirmation on a potential profile. It feels more like PR than actual journalism, but it brings in a paycheck, so I'm not going to grumble too loud. I wonder if I should pursue more freelance work. Or if I should work on some other projects. Or consider other job options.

Or just worry.

One daughter has blisters from new shoes; another has been cast in the school play. Yet another needs to write birthday thank-you notes.

We're sending Alison away for the weekend. Then who knows what lies in store. Watching some of our accumulating Netflix, swimming, making fajitas. Tidying up a bit, reading, taking it easy. Planning a birthday party. Or two.

Here's to a three-day weekend.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another day ...

... another list of tasks to complete. A never-ending list, a list that never reaches completion.

My neighbor's house is picture-perfect. All the time. And, she told me, she does not hire help.

I am stunned. I mean, I have help, and I still can't get my house to look like that. I would love to have everything in order, all the time. And I do ... when I am expecting guests. But today, for example? My desk is covered with papers I need to put away. And the pile of mail. And the magazines are starting to take over. Again.

Yet somehow, when I have a free moment, I just can't do it. I pick up a book instead.

For the record, our house isn't overly messy. There are just some things that need to be put away. But I also need to call the eye doctor about my new contacts (they're terrible - I've switched back to the old ones). I need to work on an article that's due soon, but my source has not been confirmed. Stuff for the kids, shopping. And I need to watch my TiVo'd Princess Diana specials (this week is lousy with them!).

Yesterday I got my hair done. And washed (and dried) a load of towels. Unloaded, reloaded the dishwasher. Cooked dinner. Bought more school supplies (and what is up with Target - empty shelves - grrrr ...). Went to Alison's Tae Kwon Do testing. Ran errands. I was nothing if not efficient. Yet, I'm never done.

Thus I was pleased to run across this article: Eight Things No One Tells You About Being a Mom.

My question: Are there really only eight?!?

Good day, all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to school

The big day finally arrived: It's the first day of the school year.

At our house, we have a sophomore. A seventh-grader. And a third-grader.

And for all three, it has been all about the outfit.

The back-to-school outfit is all-important. If I tried hard enough, I could probably think back and tell you exactly what I wore on the first day of school K through 12. I remember what I wore on my first day of class in college; I remember what I wore when I interviewed for my first job, and for the first actual day of work. I recall what I wore when I made a big Keats presentation in grad school; I remember the dress I bought for my thesis defense. I remember what I had on when I taught composition for the first time, what I wore when I went back to work at the newspaper. And I remember those interview outfits, too.

I know how critical the first-day outfit is.

Maddie and Sylvia made their choices weeks ago, and they've been laid out in their rooms since last week. Alison did not have hers all laid out, but she certainly knew what she would have on today. Thus it seemed our first day would go off without a hitch.

But it wasn't to be.

Maddie and Alison both went outside before 10 til 7; they catch their buses at 6.52 and 6.56 a.m., respectively. I got Sylvia up, and at 7.10 Alison pops in and informs me that her bus never came.

Grrr. I can take you, I said, but you'll have to wait until I get Sylvia on the bus. Around 7.20 Alison was getting antsy - couldn't we just ssend Sylvia next door? No, no - it's her first day of school, and I want to take her to the bus at least. Plus Sylvia won't hear of it - she wants me to wave to her as the bus pulls away. And I can do that much, can't I, for my smallest daughter?

Alison is becoming increasingly agitated; I tell her to remain calm. It's the first day - it's not a big deal, and she will not be in trouble or counted tardy. Especially since the bus didn't show up. I know her first day is important, but Sylvia's is, too. Asking me to choose which one is more important is akin to asking me which child is my favorite. And as you know, I have no answer for that question.

I took Sylvia out early, thinking that maybe, maybe she would be OK waiting with one of her friends. Alison sticks her head out the door periodically, letting me know that SHE IS READY. After a few minutes, one of Sylvia's friends does indeed show up, with her mother. So she acquiesces.

Alison is very upset with me - yelling at me as we drive. But I remained calm, telling her that everything will be fine. Sure enough, we get there, and the info desk woman does not even bat an eyelash when I tell her what has happened. No problem, just go here, get your schedule. No worries. And when I tell her the bus didn't show up, she looks sympathetic, but does not write down which bus or even seem to really be all that interested.

So, in the end, all is well: Everyone is at school, with lunch, with supplies.

When they came home, all three girls reported SUCCESS. Maddie's bus coming home didn't show up, so she called to let me know she was waiting in the gym, but was home about 15 minutes later. Sylvia likes a new girl in her class and loves her teachers. And Alison? No problem - two of her friends are in her lunch, everything was fine. (Apology accepted, by the way ...)

Tomorrow should be smoother. I know the outfits are planned through the end of the week, anyway.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Happy 250th Post!

Lucky me ... I have a blog site that counts how many times I've posted.

And apparently, I've hit #250. Yippee!

So it's time to turn anti-climactic: I don't really have anything of note to share.

Except for these random observations:

• School starts Monday. I think I've mentioned this.
• The cast album for Spring Awakening (which I've seen - live) is incredible. Listen closely, and you can hear me singing along.
• I had a margarita at the Girl Scout planning meeting tonight.
• One was enough.
• We ate at Balthazar in NYC. I knew I'd heard of it - see Will & Grace season 1.11. I knew it was a totally cool place to eat, with the cute waiters and the oysters I love ...
• I hesitate to mention how many clothes we tossed from Sylvia's closet today. Sigh.
• Two more closets await.
• If I added up how much $$ we had spent on all those clothes, I think I would be ill.
• Two new Showtime shows have caught my attention: Weeds (not really new) and Californication.
• This is why I have cable.
• Even I can only ramble aimlessly for so long.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


One more day.

One more day of summer vacation. I'm not counting the weekend; we'd be home anyway. Tomorrow the girls will be home, but Sunday night, it's to bed early. Monday morning, the girls will be on that school bus, leaving the house in peace and quiet.

This week has, thus, been all about back-to-school preparatons. Today was spent getting haircuts and at the Goodson Grizzlly Express. Loosely translated, it was a day of waiting in line. First we got the schedule, then bought the academic planner. Then I foolishly stood and watched while Maddie decorated her locker.

Foollishly because I should have been standing in line for her textbooks. I did not know we had changed the procedure and had to stand in a l-o-n-g queue in order to collect textbooks. Somone took your schedule, you waited, and then, in the midst of the din, your name was called to collect your books. If you didn't hear, they would take your books back in. It was loud and chaotic. I was tired, cranky, and totally frustrated.

(What was wrong with how we did it last year? When the teachers handed out books on the first day? What else are they doing on the first day? Do they not have an extra five minutes to distribute books?)

But even with 30 minutes of hellish waiting, the day had its entertainment. I got to see a collection of my favorite moms. And I got to see the tween girls. They all look the same: Same hair. Same clothes. Same shoes. (I'm sure we were the same, too, though we did have the punk/prep dialectic going on.)

Tomorrow is Meet the Teacher at the grade school. I already spent a grueling day at the high school, so after making nice with Sylvia's teacher in the portable classroom, then we're good to go.

Monday will come quickly. We will have a sophomore, a seventh-grader, and a third-grader. Life is changing. But that's nothing new, is it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

She is 9

One of Sylvia's classmates was incredulous when she said she was born in Germany.

"No way," he said. "Prove it."

Prove it? I told her to send him to me.

I'll tell him about making appointments with my OB auf Deutsch. Thank goodness for body language. I'll describe how every appointment - EVERY ONE - involved a non-stress test, an internal exam, an ultra-sound.

I'll share about how your doctor doesn't necessarily deliver: Oh, no, in a big city like Kiel you are either a prenatal doctor or a delivery doctor - maybe in a small town you would do both, but not here. About how you get a midwife for delivery unless there is a problem. And about how if the shift should happen to change while you're in labor, then you get a new midwife right in the middle.

I could tell about how the shower is not in your hospital room, but down the hall. Howver, you do get a bidet, and I think the trade-off is worth it. About how you need to bring your own towel. And your own bar of soap. And you have to purchase a card to use the phone in the room.

And there was the night I sat for what felt like hours trying to decide what to say when I buzzed to send the baby back after nursing - my German was so limited that I didn't even know how to say I was done. ("Wir sind fertig" or "Das Baby hat gegessen" or "Kommen Sie?" or "Das Baby schlaft" or ...) Seems so easy. Now.

I could also share that it was the best of my three childbirth experiences. Very low-key, just Gary, the midwife, and me in the room. I should also mention that the entire birth experience lasted, let's see ... about 45 minutes. We arrived after midnight, and little Sylvia entered the world at 12.55 a.m. Without drugs.

She was a wonder baby. And she grew up into a wonder child. Every day of my life, I am glad we have her.

Though I hope we never have another evening with seven of her little friends up until midnight on a weeknight. I am exhausted.

Happy Birthday, Sylvia!

Monday, August 20, 2007


It's been an anxious sort of day.

It started when I woke up this morning; it was around 4 a.m. I lay awake, worrying. Worrying about two bills that need to go in the mail. Worrying about a product rebate that needs to be posted. Worrying about some paperwork I need to return, about a deadline looming.

None of these tasks is insurmountable, really. None is undoable - once awake, none of these was even slightly stress-inducing. The bills went in the mail, item on deadline was sent off by noon, and the paperwork request was answered. So I lay awake, tossing and turning, for nothing it seems.

The psyche does strange things.

Having a lengthy to-do list is nothing new - when you're rearing three children, working - even part-time, even from home - own a house, have volunteer responsibiities, then you always have several items that aren't done. Always. I've been keeping a list of tasks since college. It's not something that ordinarily causes me to panic. Why last night was different, I don't know.

So today actually felt pretty good. I worked in the office all morning, got my project finished and sent off well before my deadline.

What is there to worry about, really? It all gets done, one way or another, on time, or a day late. And in the grand scheme of things, does it matter?

Little stuff. I'll save the worrying for bigger issues. I wonder who's on Stephen Colbert tonight .... that is worth worrying about.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Today was about:

- Sitting for three hours in Starbucks, getting tons of work done. Tons.
- Feeling sick in the Starbucks - the coffee smell was getting to me.
– May have to rethink this strategy for being productive.
- And it felt so promising.
- Watching the second half of Godfather II. One more movie and I can watch the bonus DVD.
- Getting good bagels in the city. Mmmmm.
- One more week til school starts. Which means one more week for the girls to have some fun, get their rooms in order, and sleep late.
- One more week for me to sleep in.
- One more week for me to procrastinate. After this week, no excuses! Real life begins in earnest.
- News tells me the hurricane will likely pass us by.
- My neighbor says add Trip To The Liqour Store to our hurricane to-do-list.
- Done!
- Taking a presidential survey. Go Kucinich!
- Does anyone around here even know who he is?

Naturally, after this level of activity, I am exhausted! After a chapter in my book, I'll be bidding this productive day farewell. Tomorrow, after all, is another day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

An offer I couldn't refuse

It's a classic. Perhaps the best movie ever made. Quotes that have become ubiquitous. The film is No. 2 on the American Film Institute's Top 100 films, and the line, "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," is No. 2 on the list of 100 best movie quotes of all time.

And I'd never seen it.

Until last night. And to say I hadn't seen it is not completely true; I"d seen bits and pieces - I'd slept through it on my sofa at least once. But last night I decided it was high time to add The Godfather to my film resume.

I was inspired, for one thing, by seeing You've Got Mail and its constant Godfather references. Leave the gun, take the cannoli. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday. Go to the mattresses - I knew several lines of dialogue just from pop culture. Thus I was moved to join the discourse - Pete and Gary analyzed and dissected the film on and off throughout our weekend in NYC.

It's high time I got on board.

So, warning: SPOILERS ahead.

Watching a film of this notoriety 30 years later is an interesting undertaking. First of all, you kind of know the story. And nothing is a total surprise. I saw the horse's head coming - it probably shocked audiences when the film came out, but since I had heard all about it, some of the shock-value was lacking.

I tend to find these stories complicated and hard to follow - just like The Sopranos. I can't tell the characters apart - it's a bunch of Italian guys with Italian last names wearing suits and hats doing dark deals with the threat of death looming. The details are murky.

But more noteworthy, perhaps, is that I had a preconceived notion of what the film is about. And to me, The Godfather in the title wasn't really Don Corleone, but about Michael Corleone. The story, to me, was less about Vito's fall from power and more about Michael and his initial reluctance, followed by his ultimate acquiesence to power.

I liked it for the same reason I always found The Sopranos fascinating: the family dynamic. Who knows? How much? How do these men live with themselves? Whom can you trust? (Apparently, no one.) How can you live with the possibility of death or betrayal at every step? What do the wives know? Their husbands lie to them, but surely they don't believe all those stories - either they're idiots or they choose not to believe. How do you deal with the kids? The neighbors?

And the church - they baptize their children, and the priest must know who they are, what they do. And he can just turn his head. Remarkable.

Quite a cast of notables - but I had some trouble with the 70s hair and ties. Come on - they could have done better in recreating the look if they'd wanted to. But my biggest problem with the plot? How could that director have slept through someone putting a horse's head in his bed? How heavily does he sleep? Would he not have felt something in the night? He was covered in blood - you'd have to notice. Or one would think.

No matter - all in all, still a great film. Great enough, anyway, that we're cueing up Godfather II here momentarily.

It's not personal, after all - it's business.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I am drowning. And I'm not just talking about the rain. In a sea of paper.

The mail comes daily. Some days, I deal with all of it in a timely manner.

And there are those other days. You know the type - the kind of day when you toss the mail onto the desk, plan to look at it later.

Some days, I just don't know how others cope. Along with the mail (which today totalled four - ! - magazines, catalogs, bills, credit card offers - no day complete without those, an insurance statement, my thrice-weekly invitation to purchase opera season tickets, and the promise of better mobile phone service if I just! switch! now!), I have receipts from the eye doctor, forms to be turned into school next week, errant phone messages, a list of restaurant recommendations that I would like to hold onto, a health history form for next month's orthodontist appointment, and a letter promising me a pizza coupon to thank me for volunteering (why didn't they just send me the coupon? Because it would have been buried on my desk, that's why - they know me).*

I see others' houses, and they show no sign of such paper. Either I am a) incompetent, b) merely inefficient.\, or c) woefully understaffed. More likely it's just d) unmotivated.

But today is tidying day, so I am getting a grip on the filing. A temporary grip, but for the weekend we'll be all caught up.

Because this weekend we have better things to do. Tonight we have ditched .... well, let's say all three girls have been invited out. Two are watching High School Musical and one is at a different sort of party. But she set theTiVo ... So Gary and I plan to watch a movie. And it won't be on the Disney Channel.

Tomorrow we must take advantage of tax-free weekend and finish the school shopping. And, just to make things exciting, it's time to prepare for our first Texas hurricane: Dean is on the way. I think we're far enough away that we won't really feel the effects of the worst of the weather, but we will experience the residual rainfall - we had heavy rains and flooding yesterday already from Erin. So tomorrow we'll be sure to get right into the shopping frenzy, making sure we have groceries and gas (though I just shopped yesterday ... still, good to be prepared).

I doubt our lives will be disrupted much. We are 90 miles from Galveston, and with Rita, this area didn't even lose power (though many people evacuated, just to be safe). We'll just stay home and enjoy some rainy afternoons; I suspect we will carry on as usual.

Though maybe, just maybe, the mail won't be delivered. Which is fine by me - give me chance to stay caught up.

*List is not comprehensive

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More of the mundane

My toe is numb.

This happened to me once before, a few years ago, after I went ice skating. My second toe felt numb - no idea if it came from the rental skates or what. I kept watching to see if it would turn black, but no such drama. Eventually it just returned to normal.

So it has happened again. Only this time, it's my left foot. I am watching, and no, it's not black. Just feels weird, as if it isn't touching the toe next to it. It's a strange sensation, as if a foreign object is attached to the end of my foot.


I took the girls to do some school shopping. I am a big fan of the school now offering the school supplies in pre-assembled packets - I don't care if it costs more, as it saves me from tramping up and down the aisles of Target searching for 100-count packages of paper, or 50-count notecards, or 1 1/2" binders - items that are not in stock or the store doesn't carry or has never even heard of. But one of my darling daughters did not care to purchase the school's supplies; she did not like the binder choices last year. So, she and I accumulated the needed items. With the exception of graph paper (they were out) and wide-rule paper (very pricey - the bargain-priced stuff was gone). Thus tomorrow we must visit Office Depot. Or Office Max, whichever one is in the strip mall up the road. I tend to use those two store names interchangeably.

Tomorrow, eye doctor. Then much work to do. And then? Who knows. But I like the possibilities.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New York

Day one: Thursday

Slow day. Boring day. Probably because most of said day was spent sitting in the terminal at the Houston airport. Delays. Endless delays. Coupled with endless phone calls. I find those people who yak on their mobile phones tiresome ... suddenly, I am that person. And for the record, airport pretzels are a no-do. The smoothie guy, however, was entertaining; we even tipped him for counter service (a trend I find disturbing, by the way - why am I tipping you for making me stand at the counter to buy an overpriced soft drink? I don't think so). We were to take off at 1.30 p.m.; finally, at 5.30 p.m. we boarded. Arrived at LaGuardia, got a cab, arrived at Hudson Hotel, West 58th St. between 7th and 8th, near Columbus Circle (just to orient you). It is past 11 (time difference). Dinner reservations have been canceled. Sad. Greeted by exuberant THUMP-THUMP-THUMP of VERY LOUD DISCO in hotel lobby. Stupid Midwesterners that we are, we inquire: Is there a party going on? No, no - just the club. Greeted by equally exuberant Peter, whom I have not seen in years. Son of a bitch: He looks exactly the same. Apparently, he can pass for 29 ... but gladly admits to 34. We check out the very lovely bar in the hotel atrium (very chic) and enjoy $20 cocktails til they kick us out at the midnight closing time. Check out the loud disco - apparently we can all still dance, even to the endless dance remixes. We were there for, say 20? 30? minutes? Not sure the song ever changed. Checked out the library bar - also loud. So, if we can't hear, then we'll go back and dance more. But no - suddenly the elite disco can no longer accommodate Pete's footwear. Somehow they were acceptable a mere 30 minutes earlier ... their standards are suddenly higher. Maybe they just saw our dancing and have decided not to encourage our participation on the dance floor. Oh well - it's late. The bed beckons.

Grade: A. I know, flight delays. But we're here!

Day two: Friday

So much for summer - it is 58 and rainy today. Which I could not tell from the view out my window, though we do have a window. The hotel room is nice, albeit small. 105 sf, I believe, including the roomy, one-person bathroom. However, what it lacks in space, it makes up for in ultra-modern style. And the noise does not follow us (except in the elevator, which BOOM-BOOMS at night - no escaping the Lionel Richie); the room is quiet. We decide to pass on the $8 bottles of water and go down for breakfast. After seeing the rain, we decide to try the hotel restaurant. Ummm ... NYC bagels! Love it. Wearing the wrinkled khakis that I fortuitously threw in, we head out to MoMa (Museum of Modern Art). It's rainy. And chilly. And apparently everyone in New York is at MoMA - the wait, they tell us, is an hour. Oh, well, what else are we going to do? So we wait ... and it is not an hour, maybe 20 minutes. Score! Though the staff can ditch the attitude: When we inquire - politely - is the umbrella check this way? the guide (volunteer? paid? who knows) says, Not if you ever want to see it again. If you do, go left. Thank you for the heavy dose of sarcasm - next time I'll study the coat check location before I come. The design section is great. Then Peter takes leave - he isn't feeling good (and our Broadway tickets are tonight! - must feel better!). Gary and I stay and really love MoMA. Sadly, Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory is on loan, but there is a nice 100-year Picasso anniversary on the Demoiselles d'Avignon. Lots of Edward Hopper, Matisse, Gaugin, Pollack ... well, lots of everything. Plus the best hot chocolate I have ever had in the cafe (though I could have done without the draft from the door ... chilly). What luck - no rain, so we walk back to the hotel in relative comfort. Except for my poor feet - the shoes are not working (didn't count on rain or would have brought the other black shoes, the ones that don't look all that cute until you put them on then - wow! they are soooo comfy). Dinner this evening is at 44 X 10, and Peter is feeling better. It is fantastic - I have the lamb and a lovely Shiraz. The bathrooms are divine. After dinner is the piece de resistance: Spring Awakening. Tony award-winner for Best Musical. Our seats were great - orchestra, row O - and the performance was riveting. Great music, great talent. Loved it. Loved it. Highly recommend. Though the people in front of us left at the intermission ... too much language? Adult content? It's no secret ... there were warnings when I bought the tickets. We loved it. Did I say that already?

Grade: A. Fantastic day. Shoe grade: C-. The Anne Klein black sandals are very cute, low-heeled, but in the rain they do not work well. However, for the evening, my feet were fine, and we took a cab.

Day three: Saturday

Perfect weather - sunny and 70. Beautiful. We choose a small diner for breakfast - I love my NYC diner bagels, but I chose French toast. First we walk to the upper East Side and wander along Fifth Avenue. Destination: Tiffany's. Which we must have walked right by - we are idiots as we realize we have walked blocks out of our way. Pete is on a quest for cufflinks. He finds them - excellent choice - and the service is excellent. I carry them (along with everyone else's crap) in my extra-large purse. Restrooms in Saks are very nice, by the way. I love the Upper East Side - I could so live here. We hop on the subway and spend the afternoon in Greenwich Village. We sit and people watch in Washington Square, then walk around, seeing the sights. But where were Matthew and Sarah Jessica? We see Stonewall, architecture, where Louisa May Alcott lived. I could so live here. Head back to change for dinner - JoAnne and Mitchell are meeting us back near the village for drinks before dinner. After several aborted attempts, we finalize details and get drinks, then head over to Brooklyn. Brooklyn Heights is charming! What a view – right over the river into Manhattan. And apparently a deal - 2,000 sf here will only cost you a mere $1.5 million. I've changed my mind - I must live here! Dinner is at Bamonte's, a quintessential Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. Apparently, the Sopranos was filmed here - you can see it if you walk in. Excellent food – I had only the gnocchi after all the appetizers: mussels, broccoli, pasta, bread. With Chianti. And we dined with the consummate New Yorkers - Mitchell and JoAnne are a hoot. After dinner entertainment could have been either a burlesque show or a jazz club - per Pete's request, we ended up at the Burlesque. It was .... let's just say marginal. Next time, Pete, it's the jazz club. We ended the evening at the bar in the Time Warner building - charming. Loved it. Great day.

Grade: A. Shoe grade: D-. The day shoes were fine (white Land's End sandals, very cute), but the evening shoes, while cute at home, and not undoable, even for walking (tan, Etienne Aignier, bit of a heel) were wretched in New York. Damn blister. But they looked great ... should have gone more casual for dinner, but I like the dress. Just had to walk slow ... next trip I'll do better.

Day four: Sunday

Another beautiful day. Gorgeous. We head out for breakfast, choosing a chic little eatery (called, coincidentally, Eatery) – very trendy. I had the sweet potato pancakes with mango guacamole, scrambled egg whites, and Mimosas – very good. Walked to the Cooper Hewitt on the upper East Side, through the park … but the entrance fee was steep for what seemed to be an uninspiring exhibit, especially with no access to the second floor (which is part of the charm of the Cooper Hewitt, seeing the former Carnegie mansion). So, back through the park to the Upper West Side, in search of You’ve Got Mail locales. Pete, the killjoy, tells me he hates this movie – Que? What is this you say? How can this be? No, he says – it’s stupid. He responds with blank indifference to all the best dialogue bits. I will have to ditch him, for the day, from my life. Finally, he says, with much sarcasm, then let’s go to the Empire State Building if we must. And I have a moment of epiphany: he is thinking of Sleepless in Seattle, which is, in fact, a stupid movie. You’ve Got Mail, however, is charming. He has not seen it – he can still redeem himself. So, off we head to Café Lalo, where Meg Ryan waited with the rose in her copy of Pride and Prejudice. A delightful place where one can buy overpriced cakes and drinks. We get Bellinis and try to order. I select strawberry tart, Gary chooses chocolate pecan torte, Pete orders chocolate-chip cheesecake. No. OK, then, key lime pie. Sorry. Umm, anything chocolate? Not for you, sir … kidding, kidding. Third time’s a charm, and he gets some sort of cake. The place is packed – our party and 75 Asian tourists; the movie must be a hit in Japan. We pass H&H Bagels, Zabors, all from the film. I love the Upper West Side – the side streets are so quiet. This is where I want to live. We see the Dakota, go into Loehmann’s (the TJ Maxx of designer wear), see the Dominican Day celebration. Must stop in Upper West Side drugstore to purchase band-aids; cannot risk incurring wrath of hotel staff, who seem to want your first-born in exchange for a band-aid. I’m too afraid to ask for two. At the hotel, we relax for a bit at the rooftop terrace – amazing. The view, the atmosphere, they are fantastic! Then we head to dinner: Destination, Balthazar in Soho. Our cab driver assures us that he knows where he is going, but we are skeptical – he went wa-a-a-y out of his way, much too far East to get to Soho. We are not idiots. It is the worst cab ride of my life – my god, I am about ready to be sick by the time we arrive, $17 later. I am quite sure we have been taken. And not in the mood for any of the fabulous appetizers. Balthazar is charming, architecturally speaking. My college French (13 hours, thank you; passed the exam for my MA by translating the works of Simone de Beauvoir) is failing me – I recognize haricots verts, but everything else is French to me … Gary orders fois gras for an appetizer, which is fantastic. I recover and get the duck Shepard’s Pie, which I am able to eat. Pete gets steak, Gary orders a different variety of duck. We pass on dessert, ordering port instead. Then – lucky us – our waiter, John, presents us with a box of dessert tarts – five of them. When we thank him, he says no problem, just a little something he is allowed to do for the tables he thinks are cool. Hmmm … we return to the hotel, where we retire to the outside terrace. The waitress is unable to secure cutlery for us – the kitchen won’t give her any - though she won’t squeal that we have food. Gary, however, goes to the kitchen himself. Success: He has procured three knives and forks. Thus the leftover desserts go back to the busboy in the kitchen.

Grade: A. Shoe grade: B-. Chose the same white sandals from yesterday, but after the damage from Saturday night, I walk s-l-o-w-l-y all day.

Day five: Monday

Happy Anniversary! Today we celebrate our ?? year of marriage. OK: 19 years. Fantastic years. We are soooo happy!!!! The day begins by hopping the subway to the Lower East Side. Breakfast is at Katz’s Deli – and it is EMPTY! Not an insignificant detail – there is no line! Bagel for me, pastrami for Gary. It is, hands down, the best pastrami I have ever eaten – we tried it a few years ago and were totally smitten. We are even able to get the Harry and Sally table, having what she had … great place. After eating we trek down to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which I love (Gary can take it or leave it – he’s been before). It is my third visit - I am totally fascinated by the story of early 20th century immigrants and the culture on the lower East Side. The museum has recreated about six of the tenement apartments, and we find the tour riveting – riveting, I tell you. Watch Godfather II to see a recreation – try to imagine a family of 12 living in 300 square feet, no light, toilet down five flights to the back yard – luxury. Then we walk back the other direction: through Soho, back toward NYU. Walked through the Washington Mews – I could definitely live here. Totally charming. And very quiet. We seek out T-shirts for the girls; we find a shop that has great shirts but, alas, they are not, shall we say, appropriate. Not for any of us. But they are funny. Tee hee. T-shirts are purchased, then we head off to Otto’s to meet Mitchell for the pre-Yankees dinner. It was good; had the waiter not had an attitude, might have been perfect. After dinner we hit the subway and take the F train north, 161st Street, to Yankee Stadium – the house that Ruth built. Home of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, A-Rod. Woo hoo – we’re sitting in the bleachers. Apparently the bleacher fans are so rowdy that no alcohol is sold there during the game. Which everyone gets tanked BEFORE they arrive. The players salute the bleachers as they are announced, and the bleacher fans shout out the nicknames. I have to say, Yankees fans have personality – they are funny. Obnoxious, yes (Gary used, ahem, a somewhat different term to describe them). Pete has had enough, but we can’t leave before our host. Looks as if we’re in luck – the Yankees are up by one in the top of the ninth. But no – with one out and a runner on second, the Orioles get a hit, and the Yankee center fielder throws the runner out at home – a stellar play, saving the game and, more importantly for Pete, avoiding extra innings. But we’re not done. The next batter also gets a hit; again, there is a close play at the plate. But this time, Yankees are not the beneficiaries. The game is tied – extra innings, anyone? Pete is cursing. Can the Yanks pull it off? The baseball gods must love the Yankees; with only one out, the Yankees score, winning the game, letting us leave to the strains of Frank Sinatra – Liza Minnelli serenades the Yankees when they lose. It’s a sound no one wants to hear. Back to the crowded subway, back to Columbus Circle, back to the skyline bar. Ended our day with our very first celebrity sighting (unless you count fake Paris Hilton or skinny Al Sharpton) – Carrottop! It was definitely him. He is one weird-looking dude.

Grade: A. I know – they’ve all been A’s. It’s New York. Shoe grade: B+/A-. Wore the very comfy brown sandals. Looked great, and I could speed walk.

All in all, a perfect trip. I love New York, I love traveling with Gary, and I loved seeing Peter. Meeting his friends JoAnne and Mitchell was fun. The city is full of energy, of excitement. It’s my favorite city in the world.


Going on vacation?

Tons of fun.

Coming home to stupid everyday tasks?

Not so much.

Today has been filled with the mundane. Laundry. Mail. E-mail. Tidying up. Finishing up some work details. Took Alison to orientation, which took f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Stood in the line for pictures. To get books. Obviously staffed by volunteers. Ill-prepared volunteers. I know, shouldn't criticize people who are giving of their time. Particularly when I am not. But come on - they either need faster people or a better system; five people should not be fetching books for a line of 100.

However, I enjoyed chatting with the woman in line with me. She's from the Bronx and overheard me showing Alison photos.

After scheduling my afternoon get-together, the girls reminded me of Sylvia's gymnastics. Ooops. So, contacted my friend N and arranged to meet later.

However, the afternoon at the high school dragged on endlessly. It became apparent that we would not make it to gymnastics. Called and rescheduled that class; turns out I could have made it to the wine bar after all. But I ended up with a free hour - which I am using to throw more clothes in the washer, and maybe even to get some real work done (deadline looming ... Monday ...)

All in all, a tedious day. Can I leave again?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Sitting in a cafe at LaGuardia, sipping my tea. We got up waaay too early, totally over-estimating the am traffic. Better than the reverse scenario, I suppose. We should have made Peter haul his lazy ... self out of bed for breakfast.

It's much too complicated to write much with a hand-held device. Suffice for the moment to say, much was done, much was seen. Perfect weather, lovely weekend. Details will be shared.

Later. I am sleepy. Must rest. Must re-enter the real world.

Sigh ...

Monday, August 13, 2007

NYC is fantastic

But no free Internet in the hotel is a drag. And blogging a/the iPhone is not so easy. We are at the Yankees game - home tomorrow. More then - I love this city!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Start spreading the news ...

We're leaving today. Or the today that starts after I get some sleep.

It's 12.30 a.m. I've been to the honky tonk - pretty fun. I've been to the eye doctor today, to get my nails done (fabulous) and sat throught gymnastics. I've addressed birthday invitations, hung with my parents.

But - oh no! - I have yet to pack. Our flight doesn't leave til 1.30; I have plenty of time.

I am excited about New York. The restaurants are chosen. Theater tickets purchased. Yankees tickets reserved. Weather ordered. Friends contacted (hi, Pete!)

And I am good to go. Soon as the suitcase is packed, iPod synched. New York, New York, what a wonderful town ...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Post-birthday bash

Birthdays are magical, special.

And fleeting. Maddie got one day this year - one magnificent, spectacular day. But it had to end.

So how did we spend the post-birthday? Why, at the mall!

I love to shop - I really do. When I was in college, I hated it. I guess I had more interesting things to do. These days, I would agree - there are definitely more interesting - not to mention more important - things to do. Life is busy with three daughters, work, commitments. So I don't get to go out shopping (other than for groceries) all that often. When I do, I really enjoy it.

In fact, I got to the mall this weekend, in preparation for our trip to New York this weekend. I did great - found several absolutely non-essential items that will add that little something to my look for the weekend.

So I"m not anti-shopping. But I do not enjoy taking my daughters to the mall. I find the stores they like unbearable - loud, crowded, inexperienced sales staff (dressed in very little, by the way) who push their new fragances on me.

However, today I put all my reservations aside. This was about Maddie and her birthday money. Plus Sylvia needed to buy a gift for Maddie. I managed to suck it up and look at Webkinz, abercrombie (which is NOT Abercrombie & Fitch, Mom), Old Navy (a store I can actually relate to, by the way), and even - ugh - Claire's.

It's the worst offender of all - loud and cluttery, filled with the most obnoxious cheap crap. Naturally, my kids love it. (And I went there in high school - I suspect if you dug deep enough in my jewlery box you might find a pair of Claire's earrings hidden back there.) Gary heard a report that some of their jewelry, made in China, may contain lead. As if the hideous quality were not enough of a deterrent.

No jewelry was purchased today - only cell phone bling. When you have a new phone, you have to flaunt it. Right?

Tomorrow, we're back to normal. Or whatever qualifies as normal in this household. Last visit to the eye doctor, packing, trip to the nail salon, birthday invitations from Target, greet the care providers (ie, Grandma and Grandpa), then a night out on the town at Blancos, the ultimate Houston honky tonk (according to, anyway). The kids will be staying at home - this is a night for the old folks. Meaning my parents. I'll just be going along as a designated driver.

With all that on the agenda, I think my bed is calling. Night!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Happy 13th Birthday, Maddie!

On August 6, 1994, I was pregnant. And overdue.

Lucky for me, the end was in sight.

When I woke up that morning, very early, I knew I was going to have a baby that day. I was up by about 4, figuring I may as well start my day. I showered, fixed my hair, did some laundry. By 6 a.m, we were both dressed and sitting in the living room reading the newspaper.

Amd we waited. We got Alison up. And waited. Went for a walk. Waited more. Gary finally decided to mow the lawn. I popped in to movie Guys and Dolls. And waited. Took a nap. A friend called to check in. Finally, finally, we realized it was time to go the hospital.

We were there by 1 p.m. At 4.11 p.m., Madeleine Claire entered the world. I was thrilled to have a second little girl, giving Alison a sister. I felt so lucky to have yet another healthy baby.

But mostly I've been privileged to have Maddie as part of our lives. She grew from a peaceful baby into a strong-willed toddler - like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: When she was good she was very, very good; but when she was bad, she was horrid.

She has always been very sure of herself and unafraid to speak her mind. But at the same time, she is very sincere. When she was little, she was the only one of my three girls to tell me she hated me, that she never wanted to see me again. But within minutes, she would reappear, completey remorseful, and burst into tears, full of apologies.

Maddie is generous, too, with her friends and her sisters, her family. She spends a lot of time making sure her friends have small gifts for all occasions. She loves to organize parties, to prepare the placecards, to arrange the menu and the decor. She attends to such tasks with unbridled enthusiasm, always willing to do more than her share.

She is an excellent big sister to her younger sibling, Sylvia. They are very close; Maddie is always willing to spend time with Sylvia, planning games, craft projects, or even small amounts of mischief. She has been a wonderful teacher, and Sylvia has benefited from her elder sister's wisdom on many occasions.

Mostly, of course, we all look to Madeleine as our resident fashionista. She loves quantity as well as quality - shoes, jewelry, purses, clothing - she loves it all, unequivocally. And when she needs to up her game, she enters my room and helps me plan outfits or pack for trips. (My outfit today is courtesy of Maddie and her fashion advice.)

She is bright, talented, and a sweet girl. She has challenged us in a way or two; Maddie is the kind of girl who will keep you on her toes. But mostly she is delight, this very special daughter of mine.

Happy Birthday, Maddie. I am so glad you're part of our lives.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


This month's Redbook has an article about how much is too much to buy your kids. It addresses my concerns about buying them too much designer clothing, expensive iPods, mobile phones, shoes, gameboys, and on and on and on.

This is what I struggle with every day of my life. What should the limits be? I grew up with plenty. Plenty. Sure, there were kids who had more, and some who had less. But I had more than I needed.

My kids have even more. Some of it they have bought themselves - Alison saved her money and bought her own iPod; Maddie worked and bought that expensive purse (very expensive - egads). I'm putting them on a budget for school clothes - more than a set amount, and they can pay the difference. If they choose to buy one or two expensive things rather than lower-priced items, then it will be their choice. I think they understand; Maddie already said Sylvia will have more clothes because she will likely shop at Old Navy while Maddie prefers Abercrombie.

OK then. Lesson learned.

Tomorrow is Maddie's birthday. No. 13 - wow. Where did the time go? She has been telling me for months she wants one thing: a cell phone. But what does a seventh-grader need with a cell phone? As my mother-in-law asked her, Who would you call on a cell phone that you can't call on your home phone? Excellent question. Her reponse? All her friends have them. You can text your friends.

Not exactly winning arguments to my ears. And I can name several reasons why she does not need one: Expense. Extended contract. Too much privilege. Safety (ie, kids on their mobile phones late at night unbeknownst to parents). And on and on.

Naturally, we made the right decision. Meaning, we (I) totally caved and got her one.

Somehow, in this negotiating and getting Maddie a phone ... well, how do I put this ... I ended up with an iPhone.

An iPhone! Can you believe it?

But back up a second. What was all this earlier talk about excess, about teaching my children proper values?

I know, I know, I know ... but an iPhone!

(Let me just pause here to interject that it is probably THE coolest gadget ever. Ever. And I do mean EVER. It is so not overrated - it is, in fact, better than what the reviews have said.)

OK, so I am nothing if not a living, breathing mass of contradictions. I am not infallible - not that I ever said I was - and I know I make mistakes. I do try hard to be a good parent, to set a good example for my girls. And I struggle, a lot, with what we are teaching them. How do we talk about caring for the environment, being earth-friendly, when we are cooling 4100 sf of living space? And running a pool? Do the 80 pairs of shoes in my closet set a good example? My trips to the hair salon for color, to the spa for manis and pedis teach my children about vanity?

And yet we do teach them to have a social conscience - it was with unmanicured nails that I took Alison to demonstrate in Washington. I wash my Ziploc bags, take my own bags to the supermarket. We read to the girls, encourage excellence in school, take them on educational vacations, encourage them to be themselves, to speak up for what they believe in. We want them to be strong young women, ready to take on the world.

I would also like them to have some humility, to understand the value of a dollar and about hard work. Their father works very hard - 11-hour days are typical, not to mention all the travel - so everything we have is the result of his labor. I have always worked, part time, in order to set a good example. We try to live an existence that stresses the real importance in life, to spurn materialism.

So maybe we're not passing that one with flying colors exactly. But come on - an iPhone! Could you say no?

Apparently I couldn't.

Maddie's phone will be her only gift - when she is getting a mobile phone, you hate to overdo it. We're going shopping, then to the movies (Hairspray), then out to dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. But I'm baking her cake. She wanted ice cream cake, but she'll be having one when she has her party.

Because really, two ice cream cakes? That would be over the top now, wouldn't it?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A day of possibilities

Before me lies a weekend rife with possibilities. Wide open.

We have no particular plans, no responsibilties. What to do ...

Yesterday was not such a day. I had to go to the eye doctor, which felt like a comedy of errors (couldn't see post-dilation, couldn't get my contacts back in, lost one, had to have the nice eye doctor put my contact in for me, trés embarrassing ....), went to Maddie's summer band concert, and so on. Came home and felt useless: I could not see and, consequently, could not do anything. Everything I could think of that I needed to accomplish, every task, required reading.

And my nice new eye doctor (I quite liked him, by the way) told me that when I'm 65, my life will feel like that every day. Good to know ...

At Maddie's concert they played a medly called Superhero Themes. It included the themes from Superman, James Bond, Batman, and Austin Powers.

Excuse me? When did James Bond and Austin Powers become classified as superheroes?

We topped that off with her band cookout lunch: hotdogs. I don't eat hot dogs. I settled for potato chips, a coke, and a piece of cake. And my friend sitting next to me commented, it's probably healthier than the hot dog. Scary ...

Sylvia was invited to a friend's house to spend the night. The parents, also good friends of ours, invited us over for dinner. So Gary and I spent the evening with pizza, wine, and engaging conversation. They are wonderful people - we are so lucky to have ended up as neighbors.

So, today? Alison is at driving school this morning. And after that, who knows? Swimming, for sure. Tidy up a bit, OK. Some shopping? Get ready for New York; I need something stunning to wear when we go out for dinner, or when we go to the theater. I should weed through the magazines that have accumulated, donate them somewhere. Take the sleeping bags to the laundramat (they won't fit in our washer and specifiy "wash only in commercial front-loader.") But where do I find a launderette around here? Or two free hours?

Or the desire to go there?

By this point you've likely stopped envying my fast-paced, fun-filled suburban existence. As you should. I think it's time to start this day of opportunity and see what I can accomplish. I have the power to make this day what I will.

Maybe I'll just aim for oridinary. Some days, a little ordinary is not such a bad thing. Have a great Saturday, all!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Runners' world

Nothing like an early morning run to get you in the mood to start the day.

I know, I know - not something you thought you'd ever hear me say. But it's true: I've been out running for a while now. Even on vacation I went out - and that spells dedication.

I can't say that I love it. Or even like it. Fact is, I have reached a certain age. The one where the body is somewhat less forgiving.

When I look back at my earlier life, I cringe at my eating habits. You would not believe my calorie intake. Or my idea of lunch. And I remained stick thin all through my twenties. Even after having two children, I looked exactly the same as I always had.

But now life is different. I am way past my 30s, and I have to work a bit harder at staying in shape. (A bit harder? Considering that I did practically nothing for years, I have to work a LOT harder.)

I don't look that bad; when I read these weight-loss stories in magazines and see their before/after photos and weights, I weigh now what some people consider their goal weight. And there are times when I am still the thinnest woman in the room.

But not always. And besides, it's not about other people. It's about me and how I want to look and feel.

I knew I had to motivate myself. Which meant cute running gear. Check - I look nothing if not amazingly stylish as I jog. But I think I need better shoes - I got a blister the other day, which put me back on the elliptical for a couple days.

Today was my furthest run yet. I cannot imagine how people can stand to run marathons for hours, or how people say they do this for fun. I do it out of necessity, for my health. I've read the reports about how phsyical activity can extend your life. And I've seen my parents, who got serious about exercise when they retired. They look 10 years younger than they are.

I'll hit the road again in the morning, decked out in my chic running gear, iPod in hand. I'll be running, and I'll be feeling better about myself when I'm done.

Just don't expect me to be smiling about it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


A dead armadillo lies on the corner of Spring Cypress and Rockhill Grove.

I know this because my daughter pointed it out as we drove to Tae Kwon Do last nght.

I say "we drove," though to be more accurate, it was she, not I, who was behind the wheel. I sat in the passenger seat, my knuckles white as I clutched the door handle, my foot pressing the imaginary brake on the floor. I was gripped with fear.

This fear has lessened over the past week, though not to the point of disappearing entirely. Like all things new or uncomfortable, it shall pass. But in the meantime, I am trying to decide how best to handle the terror that has befallen me as I travel, the passenger of an unlicensed, permit-holding, unskilled, inexperienced 15-year-old on the streets of Houston - even suburban Houston.

Tonight she wanted to drive home from Tae Kwon Do, show her friends how she had mastered the minivan.

But I wasn't quite up for it. Luckily, a friend's dad backed me up. "I'll be on those roads, either in front of, or behind you," he said with a chuckle. "I'd be a whole lot more comfortable with your mom behind the wheel."

My dear friend Helen called me today, and she and I discussed these, as well as many other, thoughts related to parenting. I'd like to say she and I solved them all. Alas, we have a few loose ends remaining.

We discussed my desire to return to work, in a real work setting, not the pseudo-work environment of my home office, where I create fascinating journalistic masterpieces on life with children, or upscale life in Galveston.

It's about getting out of the house, dressing up for work. And being in control.

"And about people having to listen to you," Helen offered. "Or if they don't, you have the power of retribution."

Exactly. Does this woman know me or what? No wonder she and I are friends.

Control over my children. I still retain some; I get to veto the late-night popcorn or movie watching when it's not deemed appropriate. I maintain the right to withhold privileges or money when the behavior does not warrant such luxuries.

But try as I might, I can't keep them from driving. Because that would be cruel and unusual. I may be a lot of things, but cruel is not one of them.

Well, at least, not yet.

Tonight, a buzzard-looking creature had landed next to the dead armadillo. Wonder how to deal with that ....